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FCC may require warnings for cellphone overage fees

updated 02:25 pm EDT, Tue May 11, 2010

FCC hopes to avoid cellphone bill shock

The FCC today said (PDF) that it was mulling a requirement that cellular carriers warn customers about high overage fees. It warned that many subscriers weren't aware of the costs of roaming on data or voice and that safeguards might be necessary to prevent unintentionally expensive bills. Officials made a request for public comments (PDF) to help get input on the proposal.

Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau chief Joel Gurin argued that customers could easily be made aware of the limits and that hundreds were getting "bill shock" that wasn't necessary. European Union countries are required by law to send text messages when customers get near their limits or are going well above their limits.

"This is an avoidable problem," Gurin said. "Avoiding bill shock is good for consumers and ultimately good business for wireless carriers as well."

In the US, carriers only sometimes send these notifications. The unexpected bills have often reached into the thousands of dollars and have left subscribers having to contest the bills to cut them down to acceptable levels. In many cases, the companies involved have usually been willing to cut the bill down but still charge well above regular phone rates.

Calls for protection have become stronger ever since the iPhone and other more more accessible smartphones have made it easier to consume data. Apple and AT&T have been the first to more proactively tackle the issue. AT&T often sends text messages to phone users; on the iPad, users get multiple notifications if they run close to the limit on the tablet's 250MB 3G plan.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Rosieposie

    Joined: Dec 1969


    'Bill shock on cell phones'

    I got so fed up with huge cell phone bills that I changed to Net10 prepaid and I'm saving $800.00 per year by doing so! Although my calls are 10c per minute and my texts 5c each it's not just don't realize how much roaming fees, long distance charges and the little hidden expenses add up to until you stop having to pay them. It's no wonder so many Americans are changing to prepaid, it's the way to go to be in control of one's budget!

  1. sanjeev

    Joined: Dec 1969


    You can get the alerts required by FCC even today!

    Overages are one thing but the number one issue that our users at complain about is that they have no control of incoming text messages and yet they get charged for it.

    As for the FCC proposal, we started a service last year that does exactly what the FCC is requiring the wireless companies to start doing. Moreover, this service is free and feature rich - users have far more control of their minutes than what we have seen with U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless implementations. I would recommend US cellphone users to check out while they wait for their carrier to implement the FCC proposal.

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